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THIS WEEK


Library Focus School libraries in lockdown


FOUR IN TEN YOUNG PEOPLE REPORT THAT READING HELPS THEM TO RELAX


SLA data demonstrates a mixed approach to school libraries through the pandemic


The School Library Association says many of its members were furloughed and some have been made redundant but librarians have been more essential than ever


S


Alison Flood @alisonflood


24 3rd September 2021


chool librarians have been immensely resourceful since the UK went into


lockdown in March 2020–whether establishing weekly book clubs online, seting up student newspapers and reading competi- tions, or delivering library books to homes. At least, those who weren’t furloughed have been: the School Library Association (SLA) reports a piecemeal employment picture for its members over the past 18 months, ranging from full furlough, through part-furlough, to continued full-time work, albeit remotely. “There’s been such a broad range,” says SLA chief executive Alison Tarrant. “Some were [furloghed and] told they couldn’t work any more, to the point where they were prevented from


accessing their emails, so they not only lost that sense of being able to help their communit and support the pupils, but also a lot of their networking connections. Then some were put on partial furlough, and then there were some schools where they said, ‘We’re going to need you more than ever, so let’s invest in digital resources and get the school library online’.” The efforts of those librarians allowed to continue working “have just been phenomenal”, according to Tarrant, with people driving books to pupils’ homes, establishing digital resources and liſting lending limits to ensure children have access to as many titles as possible. But there have also been schools that decided their library, and its librarians,


were expendable. The SLA is in the middle of conducting detailed research but it knows that there has been a range of ways in which school libraries have been hit. “I think [library closures] will


be by stealth,” says Tarrant. “No school is coming out and saying that having not had a library for two years, they’re going to do without it. But people are being made redundant, schools are reducing the size of libraries and saying, ‘Right, this bit can remain as a classroom, you don’t need all of this.’ We’ve had librarians who have been told, ‘The library’s closed, you’re not a librarian anymore, you’re a full-time Covid tester. And when you’re not test- ing people, you’re calling to see how they’re doing.’”


The SLA acknowledges the


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